Posted 8/16/16 (Tue)
By Kevin Killough
When Bino Michael Bonner talks about his cooking, there’s an earnest passion in his tone.
Bonner is the mastermind behind Binadios Pasta & Sauces. It’s a fledgling business he runs when he’s not working for Hess.
Right now, the business is in the marketing phase, but he said he’s drummed up some interest in his home-cooked, organic, authentic Italian food.
He doesn’t take a list of ingredients he bought from the store and mix them together in cups and tablespoons.
He said he doesn’t use measurements at all.
Instead, he’s like a painter whose vision comes to life one stroke at a time. Rather than measuring the result of his creation by his eye, his creation is about taste.
As a guide, he does have recipes, which were passed on to him from his great-great-great grandmother all the way back to the “old country” of Italy.
“It’s in our tongue,” Bonner said with his New York accent.
Bonner is the descendant of immigrants and he grew up in New York City. After immigrating to America, his grandfather worked as a construction supervisor on the Brooklyn Bridge project.
Bonner said cooking was a big part of his family’s life growing up.
“I used to love to sit and watch my mother cook,” he recalls.
Bonner landed in North Dakota to pursue work in the oil fields after living in North Carolina as part of his service in the Marine Corps, doing tours in the infantry in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
He said his experiences in the wars had a big impact on him, and a discussion of what he went through quickly leaves him choked up.
He said his family knows when he’s having another bout with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They see it in his eyes and know to give him some space for a while.
Like many veterans who have faced the illness, he’s learned to cope.
In this way, his cooking became sort of an art therapy for him, he said, allowing him to plunge his energies into something creative, which gets his mind off memories of war.
Like most artists, he has a philosophy about his creations. He said the enjoyment of food is a means to the enjoyment of life.
“I love to see people fulfilled with food. Life is so fast today. We’re always in a hurry. But when we eat, we sit down. Food stops the world. We’ve forgotten how to sit and enjoy,” he said.
He ended up in North Carolina and eventually made his way to North Dakota in 2012, where he first lived in the now-defunct Target Logistics Tioga man camp.
Besides the culture shock, there was adjusting to the area’s harsh winters.
“Touring through Afghanistan was cold . . . but here? It was the most bitter cold I’ve ever felt.”
He’s stuck it out and now has a house near McGregor, where he’s turned his kitchen into a factory. And just as when Bonner was growing up, cooking has become a family activity in the Bonner household.
His wife Nadia, daughter Gabriella, and son Jonah all pitch in to create the ravioli and sauces he’s currently focusing on. Rocco and Anthony are too young to help, but perhaps by the time they’re old enough to cook, they will join in the effort.
Bonner puts a lot into it, often working until two in the morning, and then getting a few hours of sleep before heading off to his Hess job in the day.
Besides all the time he spends in his off hours, he’s meticulous from start to finish with his product.
He gets almost all the ingredients online from specialty stores or from his own garden.
His dogs took it upon themselves to dig up a lot of his produce, so he’s had to rely more on the online stores this summer, but he insists on the health benefits of organic.
The eggs are organic, the spices, the olive oil, and all the beef is from grass-fed slaughter houses as close to home as he can find.
“From beginning to end, it’s solid organic,” he said.
He said most people don’t know what authentic Italian pasta is really like, because they’re used to what you get in the grocery store or at chain restaurants.
Most of that pasta is white, because it’s just flour and water.
Real Italian pasta, Bonner said, is yellow. It’s handmade with eggs, and if done right, you can see through ravioli to the stuffing in between.
“If you can’t see through the pasta, it’s too thick,” he said.
The whole kitchen is thick with Italian spices and Italian music, from Pavarotti to Sinatra, which his daughter is in charge of.
“Gabriella makes sure the music fits the ambiance,” Bonner said.
He and his daughter show how the dough is made, by hand. They put it through a press that creates a long strip.
“You want a soft dough that’s elastic,” he explained.
Gabriella takes the strips and lays them out over a nester. She carefully paints egg along the squares, which holds the layers together, and then places the stuffing on top. That is then covered with another layer of pasta. This is then laid out on the counter before its put into boxes stamped with a logo Bonner designed himself, by hand.
He said the raviolis have to be cooked differently from the stuff most people are used to.
It takes just a few minutes in boiling water before it’s done, and if you dump it out in a colander, it’s ruined.
“You flatten it if you do that,” he said.
Instead, he fishes each ravioli out one-by-one with a slotted spoon.
The sauces are made with just as much meticulous attention. These are not thrown together in a few hours. He said it can take 24 to 36 hours to slow cook them. This brings out the flavor from the spices and the vegetables.
“The slower you cook it, the better it is,” she said.
Just the beginning
In all he said he has over a dozen flavors of ravioli and just as many sauces.
The sauces include three cheeses, vegetarian, vodka, garlic and basil, and a meat lovers, which contains lamb, beef, and pork. The flavors of ravioli include sweet Italian sausage, ricotta cheese, artichoke, spinach, and a pumpkin flavor he has out around Thanksgiving.
He hot-bath cans them himself. And he said he can custom-make just about any Italian food people want.
The hope is he can get people in the area interested in authentic Italian food and then maybe open his own restaurant someday.
“That’s my goal. If God’s willing to open that door, I’m willing to step through it,” he said.
Bonner’s looked around at some options for where he might locate, but for now he’s handing out samples to local restaurants and friends.
He said a lot of great things start small like this.
“I know so many people who started really good businesses in their basement,” he said.
For orders or information, reach Bonner at 718-757-5408.